university of pennsylvania professor steven hahn discusses his latest book the political world of slavery in the freedom. that's next on book tv. he argues historians have presented an incomplete picture of african-american emancipation and struggle for civil rights that followed. professor steven hahn was interviewed at the university of pennsylvania in philadelphia as part of book tv college series. ..
>> guest: african-american communities involved gender as well as power, but beyond that, i don't know. >> host: well, professor hahn, what do -- going to the topic of the book, what do we know wrongly about slavery in the u.s.? >> guest: well, one of the issues that i try to deal with in the book is the process by which slavery ended, and the geographical reach of slavery. i think the view that tends to be handed down is by the 19th century, certainly, a country neatly divided between the so-called free states and the so-called slave state, and, of course, the civil war growing out of that conflict.
my issue is not whether slavery's at the root of the civil war, which it certainly was, but what interested me was the relationship between the early emancipation of slaves in the northern states, and the later emancipation of slaves much larger in scale in the southern states. slavery was legal in all of the british colonies and all of north america at the end of the 18th century, and gradually, northern states and northeast and mid an lat tick states began to abolish slavely, but i learned it was a gradual process. it took a long time. what we discoveredded there were laves in new jersey in 1860, and most of the states that abolished slavery between 1780 and 1804, the period we customarily looked at, had to do it again later in the 19th
century because there's so much ambiguity as to what the road to slavery to frame -- freedom was. thinking about that, i tried to then step back and say, well, if that's the case, what's it mean for us to understand the courses of the emancipation in the united states, and the notion of sectionalism between freedom and slavery that organizes our understanding of american political history so i end up arguing in one of the essays of the book that slavery is national, that slaves -- communities of run away slaves should be understood as what we call maroons, fugitive slave communities, and that the links between people of african dissent in what we call the northern states and slaves in the southern states are important circuits of communication activity that we should pay more attention to. >> host: what were the primary
documents you used to research your book? >> guest: well, i was using a lot of different things. i was using narratives that were written by slaves who, so-called ran away to freedom, and one of the things that struck me is that although we tend to think about the mason dixon line and the ohio river and once you got to the other side, you were free, and i tended to focus on the first half of the nationtives, the experience of enslavement in the south, that when you got to the other side, a very powerful thing was the gray areas of freedom and how procare yows life was in the so-called free state, and how many runaways felt the need to either go to canada or britain because there was no way of really achieving freedom because of the fugitive slave laws, and so these were really important.
looking at the e emancipation statutes pass by individual states, and recognizing that basically they didn't free anybody with a rare exception. they only freed the children of slaves, and only when they became adults, depending on the age and gender and the state in each particular case, and then the very gray areas when courts seemedded to -- seemedded to be okay with former slaves indentured. some enslaved, emancipation by the statutes, ended up signs multiyears, if not lifelong indentures. the courts thought that okay for awhile, and also the fact that there was hiring of slaves, say,
someone who was a slave in kentucky might be hired in pennsylvania where slavery had been abolished. now, the law would often allow a slave to remain within the state for a specified period of time, all of which is to say that the line between slavery and freedom in the united states was kind of in distinct, and that even as late as the election of 1860, although lincoln and the republican party tried to make a case for sectionalism, it's a political construction and reflection of direct reality. >> host: well, we talk a lot today about red states and blue states, but there are a lot of conservatives in california and a lot of liberals in texas. >> guest: absolutely. >> host: was the it the same with slavery? was there a lot of sympathy to the institution of slavery in the north? >> guest: i think more to the point that the democratic party was probably, up to the election of 1860, during the period of
popular elections for national office, was the majority party in the united states, and it was a party that was devoted to what we might call state rights and local control, and they put together a coalition that included slave holders in the south and a whole variety of people in the north including urban laborers who were pushing back against the potential promise of centralization of power. i think what is true is that state right sentiment was widespread. some sympathy for secessionism was sufficiently widespread that the lincoln administration was really worried about it. remember california and oregon are very far away from centers of power in the united states. this is one of the reasons that lincolnmented to build a -- lincoln wanted to build a
transcontinental railroad once the civil war begins because he wanted to extend the reach. there were fears -- if you think about what lincoln did what he did in south carolina, part of the logic of this was not just the states that had already seceded from the union, by the prospect of the country as a whole falling apart if the federal government didn't assert its power and its authority. the west coast, there was some secessionist sentiment. in the midwest, there was talk about new york being a free port of entry like britain and germany. we look back knowing the result of all of this, which, of course, led to the emergence, really, of a nation state for the first time, and one with much greater powers and reach than it had before, and you can forget how procariuos the union
was for a long period of time, but i think it's also important to recognize, and this is about state rights and slavery in terms of the civil war. there was a broad state right sentiment, but the only states that seceded from the union was slave states, and i don't think that's insignificant too. there's no way of understanding secession and state rights outside the slavery question. >> host: professor hahn, 1863, the emancipation proke clay mages, -- proclamation, did it put an end to any discussion and any existing remanents of slavery? >> guest: it didn't. it was a very, very important moment because the united states, the lincoln administration, exercising his powers as commanders in chief, it's a war measure, abolishes slavery without compensation to owners. this is new. the northern states abolished slavery gradually because they were addressing the issue of compensation.
slaves were property. how do you abolish property rights? you know, and without threatening other private property so they abolish slavery without compensation, and they dropped colonization, which had been central to emancipationists' discourse from thomas jefferson to abraham lincoln, and they provided for the military recruitment of people of african dissent, both of whom were slaves and not slaves. this was also a break because african-americans were not allowed to serve either in the united states army or in the state militias because of the connection between military service and citizenship claims. on the other hand, the emancipation proclamation did not cover all of the slave states. it left out states that had remained loyal to the union. it left out areas of the confederate states that were under federal control. the tension between who's really going to complete the
emancipation process. lincoln, for awhile, tried to encourage the border states to do it themselves, even gradually, and he was going to offer federal assistance. what's more is that as important as the emancipation proclamation was was it's a war measure. it gets to the issue of the 13th amendment. what happened once the war ended, what the emancipation proclamation retained its legal authority or educatively -- effectively be overthrown by the courts? the press for the amendment came to secure emancipation, but remember, too, the emancipation proclamation would be in effect if the union side won the war and the confederate side surrendered. if there was an arms assist, the proclamation would be out the window, and certainly, at that
point, slavery would not return as it had been before, but history does go backwards. >> host: steven hahn, the political worlds of slavery and freedom. what was the political freedom? >> guest: thfers -- this was of enormous interest to me and of other scholars. in fact, there's a lot of pushback against steven spielberg's film precisely because he does not acknowledge the significant effect that slave activities had on pushing emancipation. there's no question. one of the things that interested me was why slaves did what they did during the war, and for a long time, as scholars began to recognize that they did play a role, meaning leaving plantations and farms, heading to union lines, underminding slavery where it was in existence, forcing the union side to deal with the slavery
question when the lincoln administration, initially, at least, would have preferred not to at all. they wanted to deal with the issue of secession and reconciliation and thought that slavery would complicate the process, but the issue is why did they do that? i was really interested in the ideas that, political ideas, that slave brought into the civil war era, and i think they had a much more sophisticated understanding of american politics than we recognized. i think they understood that the nation was divided politically, they had imagined that they had allies in are the republican party and lincoln, and if you read the newspaper accounts in the summer and fall of 1860, there's a lot of talk about what slaves think is going on, that they think once lincoln -- that lincoln is on their side, that lincoln wants to end slavery, that lincoln moves against their owners,s, and once here's elect,
the emancipation will come, and once inaugurated, emancipation is declared, but not enforced on the ground, and once they invade, this knowledge or interpretation, which was wrong, but nonetheless, an amazing cases in history where people who seem to be so outside of the process understand the meaning of the event better than anybody on the inside, and act in a way to bring it to reality, their imagined sense of the political issues. >> host: how many southern african-american slaves fought in the union side? did slaves also fight for the confederate states? >> guest: well, roughly 150,000 southern slaves fought in the union army or navy during the war. about 185,000 african-americans in all, and about 80% of them were from the south. there is talk about
african-american slaves fighting for confederacy. there's no evidence for this. there are some slaves who end up in the confederate army taken by their owners as basically body servants. by the very end of the war, there was the discussion about whether this confederacy in order to preserve its rebellion, and to enhance its military capacities ought to try to enlist slaves. the recognition, by anybody who thought about it was that you couldn't do that without abolishing slavery. at the very end of the war, the confederate congress does pass an emancipation bill that provides for enlistment, but no guarantee of emancipation, but the war ended really before it could go into effect. the only other case is the louisiana native guards, a -- a
regimen of free people of color in new orleans, who initially support the confederacy, but as soon as the union army moves into new orleans, they switch sides, so i know there's talk about this as an example of loyalty to owners, but i just have never seen evidence that is compelling along these lines. >> host: professor hahn, your narrative in the political world of slavery and freedom goes beyond the civil war. >> guest: uh-huh. >> host: why does markus garby get so much attention in your book? >> guest: that's a very good question. when the book i wrote before "the political worlds of slavery and freedom," is called "beneath our feet" -- >> host: in 2007? >> guest: 2004. >> host: 2004, sorry. >> guest: it's from slavery to great my -- migration, and as i was writing
it, i was not sure how the book would end, and i also became more and more interested and persuaded by what i saw as a powerful separatist tendency among former slaves in the post emancipation period. i saw it crop up in a lot of different ways, and so i started, and then i came across some information that suggested that garby's movement had a basis in the south that i had never known about before. the more i looked, the more interesting it became, and the more i came to recognize that garby really built a nationwide movement based not just in northern cities that we associate with it, but in the rural and small towns south. there were more in the southern states than there are anywhere else in the united states, and it's also an international movement so i was really, really interested in this, and one of the things i discovered in this,
and the reason it's in the book, is that as i finished "nation under our feet," i thought i'd rely on a secondary literature on the movement in the united states, and i discovered there basically was known. there's a lot on garby, himself, a very controversial figure, but in terms of who joined the unia, who was moved by it, who embraced the vision and what their understanding was, there was virtually nothing, and so in in "nation under our feet," i cobbled things together, and i thought i really need to know more about this. a theme in the book is what historians don't write about and why. why is it that there's certain episodes or certain interpretations that stare you in the face, but somehow you refuse them or ignore them, and he's really one of almost any historian with african-american history would acknowledge that the unia was the largest mass
movement of people of african dissent, ever, and, yet, we know almost nothing about it. it just seemed to me that was a very odd thing, and i think the reason is that it complicates our slavery to freedom narrative, which is is about the civil rights movement. it doesn't fit in, and it identifies a tendency, that's a very powerful one, and i might add, shows up among a lot of civil rights activists. i mean, the more i look, the more i found that the connection with the unia is much more widespread than anybody would have thought. think about bob moses, rosa parks, all of these people had these connections so i think there is a picture of african-american politics that is much more complicated than we want to acknowledge, and i think we've come to terms with our
pasts and the disgrace of slavery by constructing a narrative that is about how slavery ends and about how freedom is ultimately realized so that the civil rights movement becomes the crucial end point, and episodes people, movements, that don't fit into that, are very problematic, and i think there's all sorts of scholars, across the political spectrum, who have an investment in denying it, and that's, i construct by that -- i had a lot of pushback of anything i've written -- i've had more pushback about that, but part of what i discovered is that the movement is still alive. there's a chapter in philadelphia. i organized a conference about three years ago on the unia scholarly conference, a small number of scholars to present work, but at the last minute, i advertised this in a local newspaper, and 150 people showed up.
i mean we were all astonished by this. that gives you a sense there's a lot out there we have to know more about. >> host: what's the political focus today? >> guest: well, the unia is the universal negro improvement association. there are chapters. there is a chapter in philadelphia. there's some chapters in the united states. there's chapters elsewhere in the world. i think it's also people who are kind of nationalists in their political views, they might embrace ideas about separatism, and so the ideas or their understandings and also their sense of connection with africa is very, very powerful, and i think it tends to be especially powerful among sections of african-americans who are working class or poor whereas the civil rights narrative and
the civil rights movement, i think, connects a lot more with african-americans who are middle class, well-educated, and i think the civil rights movement had its greatest accomplishments in promoting the expansion of the black middle class and its greatest failures in terms of the large number of african-americans who are working class and working poor. >> host: booktv on location at the university of pennsylvania in philadelphia, and we're talking with hisly professor, steven hahn. what do you teach here at the university? >> guest: well, i am currently teaching a large lecture course on the history of the american south from the civil war to the late 20th century. i teach -- i also teach a lecture course, which is called "slavery, race, and revolution" which starts with the haitian revolution of the late 18th century and goes to garby in the early 20th century, about
slavery and emancipation in the broad western hemisphere, and how it interconnected -- it becomes a comparative and international history. i teach a introductory course called "making of the modern world," a world history course i do with one of my african history colleagues from the middle of the 18th century to roughly the present, and than i teach graduate students, and my work is in the history of the 19th century broadly, and history of american empire that i've been interested in. i'm now working on a book that's a history of the 19th century, and it's a lot about the west so it's new areas of interest. >> host: we've been talking with professor hahn about his most recent book, "the political worlds of slavery and freedom," and he's also the pulitzer winner for his 2004 book, "a nation under our feet." professor hahn, thank you for
your time today. >> guest: well thank you for having me. i really enjoyed it. >> now sarah gordon talks about religious cases in u.s. history that transformed the laws of the country and illuminated protections afforded in the u.s. constitution. this interview, part of booktv's college series, recorded at the university of pennsylvania in philadelphia. it's about 20 minutes. >> host: university of pennsylvania professor sarah gordon, the spirit of the law, her most recent book. what do you mean when you talk about the old constitutional world and the new constitutional world when it comes to religion? >> guest: well, for most of our nation's history, it was the states rather than federal government that